Six historic structures, including an above-ground pool and one of West Virginia’s oldest mills, were announced as the 2014 West Virginia Endangered Properties List during a press conference at the State Capitol on February 12, 2014. This year marks the fifth anniversary of the revival of Preservation Alliance of West Virginia’s (PAWV) Endangered List, which is a collection of historic resources at risk of being lost from neglect, demolition, and other factors. All of the sites added to this year’s list represent a shared heritage. They are special places that helped to define us as children and unique shops that were staples of the community for years, but as times have changed, they have fallen into disrepair. However, 2014 is a turn-around year for these endangered sites, and with PAWV’s support, their owners have plans to update them while preserving our heritage. Two old schools in Fayetteville and Glen Jean, a Weirton pool, two unique commercial buildings in Belington and Wheeling, and Jefferson County’s oldest intact grist mill comprise this year’s list.
The Old Fayetteville High School is an impressive sandstone structure built in 1923. The historic school, which once housed both the middle school and high school, is located in Fayetteville and has been closed since 1999. It was added to the Endangered List because certain parts of the structure are failing as a result of deferred maintenance. The town government acquired the building in 2011 and has since been devising an adaptive re-use plan to restore the building and turn it into a multi-tenant civic and arts center.
The other school added to the list is the Glen Jean School in Fayette County. It is the last remaining structure from the original development of Glen Jean. It sits adjacent to the Boy Scouts of America Bechtel Summit and the National Park Service Headquarters for the New River Gorge National River. The school has been vacant for eight years, and it was identified as endangered after being severely vandalized this summer. Currently, owners are mobilizing for a preservation re-use project for mixed use.
The Margaret Mason Weir Memorial Pool is part of the Marland Heights Park complex in Weirton. Constructed in 1934, the Art Deco swimming pool features a unique, ovoid above-ground pool style. The pool closed in 2005, and there were plans to demolish it. However, a display of community support stopped the demolition plans, and the Marland Heights Community Association, Inc. formed to save the pool. The Association is conducting a feasibility study to determine whether the swimming pool can be successful. If determined unfeasible, the pool could be demolished.
The Kirk’s Building is located in the center of downtown Wheeling along a gateway into the downtown district on Market Street. Adjacent to the West Virginia’s Independence Hall, it is one of few terra cotta and Art Deco buildings in the city. Most recently, the building was home to Kirk’s Art Supply, but for the past five years, it has been vacant. It was identified as endangered because the building is deteriorating. There is a lot of support from Wheeling residents to preserve this property and rehabilitate it as a rentable commercial space.
The Golden Rule is located in the heart of downtown Belington in Barbour County. Built in 1902, it was a wholesale family-owned business, Valley Grocery Company, for nearly 100 years. Its Italianate architectural style is a rarity for the town. Currently, it is used for storage and is endangered because of deferred maintenance, vandalism, pests, and invasive vegetation. Several local nonprofit organizations are working together to purchase and rehabilitate the property with the goal of sparking much-needed economic development in the area.
Feagans Mill is the oldest structure to be added this year, and it is unique to the Endangered List because it is the last complete, intact, and operable grist mill in Jefferson County. It can be found in a largely agricultural area surrounded by historical houses and farms, all of which predate 1880. The current owner’s goal is a full restoration of the site with functioning historical mill, creamery, and ancillary businesses. It was added to the endangered list because of pest infiltration and because the project is having difficulty in moving forward due to zoning and engineering regulation concerns.
PAWV is the statewide, grassroots organization promoting historic preservation and our state’s cultural heritage. Each year, PAWV releases an Endangered List to highlight the plight of at-risk properties that contribute to the understanding of our heritage. PAWV’s field services representative, Lynn Stasick, works directly with local residents rallying to save and re-use endangered properties. Lynn provides preservation assistance, such as preservation expertise, capacity building, and advocacy. For the first time, PAWV has increased this initiative by instituting the new Five Year Plan of Rescue for endangered property stewards. Its goals are to evaluate the project’s present position, formulate a plan of action, and work to see the dream through to its end, in addition to minimizing the inevitable problems that arise in endangered property projects. “We are offering added support by giving the property stewards a plan to follow that has been proven to work for other endangered sites over the last five years. Although some projects take longer than others, this is a tried and true method that is effective,” explains Danielle LaPresta, Executive Director for PAWV.
Properties are selected for the West Virginia Endangered Properties List after a competitive nomination process on the basis of preservation emergency, eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places, and local support for a re-use project. To follow the fate of Endangered Properties, look for updates in the Saving Sites section on the PAWV website at www.pawv.org. More information about listed sites and nomination forms for next year’s Endangered Properties List are available at www.pawv.org/endanger.htm.